What is your cultural background? Where did you grow up?
I am African American, born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
How do you support NNSA?
I am a program manager for the Physics and Engineering Models, the Capabilities for Nuclear Intelligence, and Laboratory/Site Directed Research and Development programs in the Office of Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) and Institutional Research and Development.
ASC provides the high-end simulation capabilities (e.g., modeling codes, computing platforms, and supporting infrastructure) to meet the requirements of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Modeling the complexity of nuclear weapons systems is essential to maintaining confidence in the performance of our stockpile without additional nuclear explosive testing.
How did you become interested in the field you are in? How did you end up on this career path?
I was always really good at math and science, so I knew early on I wanted to become an engineer. I attended college at the University of Maryland, College Park, and I chose electrical engineering early in my freshman year. Nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon policy became interesting to me when I took a course in Game Theory as a senior in college.
I started with NNSA through their Future Leaders Program (FLP). FLP truly set me up for success at NNSA because we spent two years in a rigorous training program that required travel to most of the M&O sites and extended details. I was fortunate enough to spend time at the Kansas City National Security Campus and the Special Technologies Laboratory in Santa Barbara, CA.
Upon graduating from FLP, I worked for about six years supporting non-NNSA national security work at the labs/plants/sites. I began to understand how capabilities built for the weapons program could be applied to global security. Eventually, I became interested in ASC, which aligned nicely with my educational background. In my current role, I support the development of tools directly required to maintain the U.S. stockpile while also ensuring the health and vitality of the labs/sites with a robust LDRD program, and still ensuring weapon program capabilities can be applied to interagency national security needs.
What’s one of your favorite things about working at NNSA?
One of my favorite things about working at NNSA is the unique mission that we have, which is supported by a diverse set of colleagues, here in Washington, D.C. as well as our sites across the country. Not only are we charged with maintaining our current nuclear deterrent, we also must think about what capabilities are required for our future nuclear stockpile, even when those requirements aren’t yet understood. Additionally, because of the many capabilities needed to support the nuclear deterrent, we all play a major part in enabling the many global security missions of NNSA and the Department of Energy. More recently, I’ve been encouraged by our approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). There is still lots of work to do, especially on the workforce development side, but we are still honoring our commitment to addressing and improving our DEIA culture.
What are the characteristics of the best teams you have been part of?
The characteristics of the best teams I’ve been a part of are strong leadership, empathy, and accountability. Strong leadership can sometimes overcome the natural deficiencies within teams, especially new teams. Empathy and accountability are important because, in my opinion, they provide a more instinctive and acceptable path to constructive feedback. In my experience, it allows for that dialogue to happen more naturally and is typically more actionable to strengthen teams on much shorter timelines.
What advice would you give members of the Black community who want to do what you do for NNSA?
APPLY! You’re qualified. I knew very little about NNSA and its mission(s) prior to joining NNSA. I have been fortunate enough to have found many unofficial mentors in my career who have provided sound career advice and challenged me in my professional growth. I always try to actively pay that forward.
How will you celebrate Black History Month?
Our approach to Black History Month is not unlike what we do in the other 11 months. Black history is made every day. That said, we celebrate by learning – we read books, we watch movies, we get out and visit the many different museums in the area. We try to make it fun and interactive. It’s important for my wife and I to feel like we’ve done an adequate job at home with our children instilling confidence and pride in who they are and where they come from.
What leader or cultural figure would you like to recognize this month?
Probably Simone Biles. My daughters have just recently gravitated back to gymnastics where they represent a very small percentage of Black girls at their gym. It’s important for me to show them successful women who look like them, so we spend time talking about Simone Biles. Not just to say here is a gymnast who looks like you, but here is the most successful gymnast ever and she has that Black girl magic!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
The stuff I like to do in my spare time is probably the stuff I do the least amount of. When you have three kids, your spare time is usually filled by the stuff they like to do in their spare time. That said, I like reading, playing/watching sports with my kids, traveling, and hanging out with friends and family.